November 1960 Electronics World
People old and young
enjoy waxing nostalgic about and learning some of the history of early electronics. Electronics World
was published from May 1959 through December 1971. See all
Electronics World articles.
Echo 1 launched in August of 1960, finally allowing America
to participate in the Space Race, which until then was roundly
being won by the USSR. Electronics magazines of the day were
filled with prognostications of the future of space communications.
Electronics World dedicated most of their November issue to
satellite Earth stations and advancements being made in ultra
sensitive receivers and powerful transmitters. Since the earliest
satellites were literally metallic balls for reflecting radio
signals, it was necessary to optimize both ends of the communications
path since there were no circuits onboard the satellite to perform
signal processing and re-transmission. Bell Labs, of course,
was at the forefront of the technology. In fact a famously serendipitous
discovery was made by a couple scientists in 1964 using the
very antenna featured in this advertisement - see
The Maser & Sugar Scoop Antenna: Receiver for Signals from
Bell Telephone Laboratories Project Echo
"Project Echo" satellite went into a near-perfect circular
orbit 1000 miles high, circling the earth once every two hours.
Its orbital path covered all parts of the U. S.
First Phone Call Via Man-Made Satellite!
Bell Telephone Laboratories Bounces Voice Off Sphere Placed
in Orbit a Thousand Miles Above the Earth
Think of watching a royal wedding in Europe by live TV, or
telephoning to Singapore or Calcutta - by way of outer-space
satellites! A mere dream a few years ago, this idea is now a
giant step closer to reality.
Bell Telephone Laboratories recently took the step by successfully
bouncing a phone call between its Holmdel, N. J., test site
and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration (NASA) in Goldstone, California. The
reflector was a 100-foot sphere of aluminized plastic orbiting
the earth 1000 miles up.
application of telephone science Sponsored by NASA, this dramatic
experiment - known as "Project Echo" - relied heavily on telephone
science for its fulfillment...
The Delta rocket which carried the satellite into space was
steered into a precise orbit by the Bell Laboratories Command
Guidance System. This is the same system which recently guided
the remarkable Tiros I weather satellite into its near-perfect
To pick up the signals, a special horn-reflector antenna
was used. Previously perfected by Bell Laboratories for microwave
radio relay, it is virtually immune to common radio "noise"
interference. The amplifier - also a Laboratories development
- was a traveling wave "maser" with very low noise susceptibility.
The signals were still further protected from noise by a special
FM receiving technique invented at Bell Laboratories.
"Project Echo" foreshadows the day when numerous man-made
satellites might be in orbit all around the earth, acting as
24-hour-a-day relay stations for TV programs and phone calls
between all nations.
This experiment shows how Bell Laboratories, as part of the
Bell System, is working to advance space communication. Just
as we pioneered in worldwide telephone service by radio and
cable, so we are pioneering now in using outer space to improve
communications on earth. It's part of our job, and we are a
long way toward the goal.
Giant ultra-sensitive horn-reflector antenna which received
signals bounced off the satellite. It is located at Bell Telephone
Laboratories, Holmdel, New Jersey.
Bell Telephone Laboratories World Center of Communications
Research and Development
Posted January 16, 2014